Summary

Winner of several national awards including the 1967 Pulitzer Prize, this classic study by David Brion Davis has given new direction to the historical and sociological research of society's attitude towards slavery.
Davis depicts the various ways different societies have responded to the intrinsic contradictions of slavery from antiquity to the early 1770's in order to establish the uniqueness of the abolitionists' response. While slavery has always caused considerable social and psychological tension, Western culture has associated it with certain religious and philosophical doctrines that gave it the highest sanction. The contradiction of slavery grew more profound when it became closely linked with American colonization, which had as its basic foundation the desire and opportunity to create a more perfect society. Davis provides a comparative analysis of slave systems in the Old World, a discussion of the early attitudes towards American slavery, and a detailed exploration of the early protests against Negro bondage, as well as the religious, literary, and philosophical developments that contributed to both sides in the controversies of the late eighteenth century. This exemplary introduction to the history of slavery in Western culture presents the traditions in thought and value that gave rise to the attitudes of both abolitionists and defenders of slavery in the late eighteenth century as well as the nineteenth century.